- Associated Press - Friday, November 25, 2016

ESTERO, Fla. (AP) - A sizable contingent of Ohio State fans came to the Gulf Coast Showcase in southwest Florida, where the weather happens to be just a bit nicer than back home.

Those fans will be free to watch a certain football game Saturday afternoon.

Kelsey Mitchell scored 10 of her game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter, and No. 8 Ohio State used a late 11-0 run to pull away and beat Florida Gulf Coast 79-66 on Friday in the tournament quarterfinals. The win means the Buckeyes (4-1) play on Saturday night - instead of playing a consolation matchup in the afternoon, which would have been during the Michigan-Ohio State showdown back in Columbus.

“I’ve been at Ohio State three years and I never got a chance to experience ‘The Game,’” Mitchell said. “Hopefully we can give back, watch them, cheer them on.”

Mitchell got better as the game went on, still having a big night despite not getting her first basket until the second quarter. She had 19 of her 25 points after halftime.

“She’s going to be the first pick,” FGCU coach Karl Smesko said. “Whenever she comes out she’ll be the first pick in the WNBA draft. She’s that good.”

Shayla Cooper finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Buckeyes. Stephanie Mavunga added 13 points and 12 rebounds for Ohio State.

“I thought it was a great challenge for our team,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said.

Taylor Gradinjan and Nasrin Ulel each scored 13 for Florida Gulf Coast (2-3), which trailed by one at halftime and was still within five points early in the fourth.

The Eagles - who are playing this weekend about two miles from their campus - were 12 for 37 from 3-point range and 8 for 30 from inside the arc.

“I’m a little bit mixed emotions right now,” Smesko said. “I’m disappointed because we didn’t work as well together as I thought we should of. But then at the same time I saw us do some things well and move in a positive direction.”

Mitchell had five of the 11 points in the decisive run for Ohio State, starting it with a layup and adding a 3-pointer. The Buckeyes held a 52-31 rebounding edge, 25-11 in that department after halftime.

Ohio State led by as many as 12 in the third, but Ulel - who logged six scoreless minutes in her lone collegiate appearance entering Friday - made three 3’s in the final 2:30 of the quarter, and FGCU was within 54-48 headed to the fourth.

“Knowing we were in Florida, playing a team like Florida Gulf Coast, we could never get comfortable,” Mitchell said.

BIG PICTURE

FGCU: Gradinjan left the court briefly in the first half while getting her left leg bandaged. She also had to be taken out early in the fourth quarter, favoring the leg slightly. … The Eagles need only look at last season when figuring out how to overcome a slow start. They were 1-2 last year and finished 33-6.

Ohio State: Mitchell is now the Buckeyes’ career leader in 3-pointers made, getting No. 271 to fall late in the third quarter. She passed Caity Matter, who made 270 from 2001-05. Mitchell didn’t know she was even nearing the record. “Aw, thanks,” she said. … Even though they trailed for only 1:18, the Buckeyes were tested - there were six ties and six lead changes.

HOMECOMINGS, SORT OF

This weekend is taking Smesko back to his roots. He’s a native of Ohio, and there’s a chance he could face his alma mater - Kent State - when the three-team, eight-team tournament wraps up on Sunday.

UP NEXT

FGCU: Either No. 11 Syracuse or George Washington on Saturday.

Ohio State: Either No. 11 Syracuse or George Washington on Saturday.

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